IN THE REGION — Amy Hollis was named the temporary executive director of Shoreline Soup Kitchen and Pantries (SSKP) over a month after Ellen Rabin stepped down from the position.
In addition to her role as pastor of Winthrop Baptist Church, Hollis has been involved with SSKP for 18 years and served as board chair.
“I’m excited to do this, passionate about it and no matter what will continue to work with and support Shoreline Soup Kitchen,” Hollis said. “There are a lot of pieces to work out. What temporary means, how long that would last, I can’t say. I’ve continued to step up for this organization and I will be here no matter what.”
Hollis said she was unsure when the board will open a search for a new full-time executive director. In the meantime, Hollis is busy handling issues that arose during Rabin’s time as executive director of the organization, first and foremost, the relationship with the Old Lyme soup kitchen and pantry.
“There is a conversation happening between some key leaders at the congregational church and the soup kitchen board,” Hollis said. “We really value the partnership and nothing is happening in the imminent time frame.”
In a June 4 press release, SSKP described Rabin’s departure after only two years as a mutual decision:
“In the spirit of gratitude and commitment to our mission of providing food and fellowship, we are announcing an upcoming transition plan. The Board will begin the search process for a new Executive Director. Ellen will continue to serve SSKP as we begin this transition. This is a mutual decision that celebrates what we have accomplished together and acknowledges that we are moving into a new day.”
Rabin’s departure from SSKP came after a number of volunteers at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme raised concerns about new restrictions placed on eligibility for the soup kitchen and pantry.
The volunteers — many involved with SSKP for decades — were no longer allowed to register people for the food pantry from outside of the 11 towns that SSKP is dedicated to serving.
Rabin declined to comment on her reasons for leaving SSKP.
Such restrictions do not apply to the soup kitchen, or the Saturday morning breakfast, but volunteers point to what they see as a negative impact caused by SSKP rules that appears to be causing a decline in attendance to the breakfast.
Whether there has been a significant decline is unclear.
“Numbers fluctuate from year to year and traditionally the summers are lower volume anyway,” Hollis said. “We do not feed the same people every week because everybody’s circumstances change. The hope that we have is that people find resources.”
Although Hollis has made no changes since taking on the temporary executive director position this week, volunteers seem hopeful.
“It is hopeful that the operation will return to its previous success in serving those in need when the cause of the problems and decline are gone,” Steven Ross, a volunteer at the Old Lyme Soup Kitchen and Pantry said.
Throughout the volunteer concerns, Steve Jungkeit, pastor of First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, has said that the ten-year partnership between the two organizations is important for successfully meeting the mission of both.
“We’re grateful to be working with Amy Hollis and the board of SSKP,” said Jungkeit. “Amy has been a valuable partner throughout this transition, and we’re confident that together, we’ll find a mutually agreeable way to address the food insecurity experienced by many in southeastern Connecticut.”